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On the issue of making donations to educational institutions in Guyana:

Implications for the diaspora

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On the issue of making donations to educational institutions in Guyana:

Implications for the diaspora


Lear Matthews

Lear Matthews offers a valuable analysis of the policy change regarding donations to educational institutions in Guyana and provides insightful recommendations for addressing the challenges and maximizing the benefits of diaspora engagement in supporting education. He effectively combines empirical evidence with practical suggestions, making it a valuable resource for policymakers, educators, and diaspora organizations.


The Ministry of Education in Guyana announced the enforcement of a policy regarding interaction between schools and “the public”. Specifically, organizations and persons will be prevented from visiting or making donations to (government) schools without permission from the Ministry of Education (News Source, January 31, 2024). The rationale for this decision centers around the “potential vulnerability to abuse and misrepresentation”. The problems identified by the Ministry are indeed noteworthy. However, enforcing reparative measures without streamlining procedures including timeliness and uniformity in granting permission for donations and visitors, may not be the most welcomed solution. Although the revised policy has implications for a range of organizations, individual donors and students, this article focuses on the diaspora, particularly Alumni Associations and individuals invested in supporting their alma mater or homeland education in general.

Assessing the Problem

The diaspora wants to be engaged with the home country, but has not been able to do so in the most effective way without a National Diaspora Engagement Strategy, which potentially scaffolds a structured, lasting bond between (immigrant) sending countries and their diasporas.

Countries including Jamaica, India and Kenya have benefitted significantly from such an initiative. A comprehensive Engagement Strategy uniformly facilitates the transfer of collective remittances. Alumni Associations, other transnational voluntary organizations and business entities have long been valued contributors to sustainable development. These organizations seek to maintain a working relationship with their home country recipients, as well as mediating partners who are mutually respectable, goal-oriented and humanistic. In the case of educational institutions, the main purpose of “giving back” is to create and sustain a learning environment for developing quality academic and life skills, educational excellence, and spiritual growth. It also allows the diaspora to sustain emotional, economic and cultural attachment to the home country.


The issue at hand as put forward by the Ministry of Education centers around the following: Safety and security, privacy, unauthorized use of students’ images and photographs, visiting schools without permission, and accountability. These are all reasonable concerns. According to the report the Ministry “…has been inundated with complaints from teachers and parents about persons accessing schools and engaging with minor children who are being photographed and those photographs are published as advertisement and promotions without permission”. Another recent directive warned, “With immediate effect, any person or organization that wishes to enter a school building to engage learners in any discussions and/or to conduct activities such as donations or distribution of gifts, must obtain written permission from the Central Ministry through the respective regional department of education”. Furthermore, head-teachers were reminded that there is established protocol with regard to inviting guest speakers “which requires adequate notice and consent before any speaker or ‘outsiders’ address students”. The Ministry’s directive advised – “protocol is necessary to ensure the safety of students while maintaining a secure, conducive environment and preventing disruption to established order and discipline within schools”. All members of the Alumni Associations are expected to comply with implemented policy changes. However, based on this writer’s research which revealed long-standing inconsistencies related to the level of efficiency of some government institutions, follow-up in a timely manner and effecting established protocol, this may be challenging.


There is an often-ignored dimension of structural change which has impacted the culture, administration and protocol of the education system. Many past and current Alumni attended at a time when their respective schools were privately-owned. This allowed direct on-sight contact and communication with school administrators regarding contributions, security, or any other business and interaction with the schools. However, the shift to public (Government) administration of the education system has resulted in changes in protocol and management, including procedures for making donations. The current re-enforcement of policy hinges on that transition.

Diaspora Philanthropy has grown exponentially through volunteerism, funding and sponsorship of a range of incentive projects including academic scholarships, cash awards and enhancement of programs such as STEM and other innovations. Projects in health/mental health, youth development and Sports also benefit. The Ministry of Education’s policy-change discussed here has advantages and disadvantages, depending on how it is implemented. It provides an opportunity to articulate ideas to strengthen educational development programs with input from both home (Guyana) and the diaspora. Nonetheless, it can also create a disincentive to donors, raising salient issues regarding protocol and expediency. Diaspora organizations vis-a-vis Alumni Associations and other Hometown Associations have been dependable and committed to helping create a learning environment that will continue the legacy of local schools by fortifying the curricula and infrastructural needs. Diasporans who sustain connections with their alma mater are interested in maintaining quality education and job-skills development.


In their research entitled Navigating Change in Guyana: How does the diaspora fit in (2023), Lear Matthews and Leonard Lewis found that various challenges have led to gaps and tension between diaspora organizations and government institutions. These include bureaucratic delays in expediting Customs “clearing” of equipment, other gift packages and unseemly gaps in the delivery of donated goods and services. In addition, frustration emanating from the failure by some local recipient institutions to provide timely acknowledgement of receipt of items has caused frustration. There has also been reports of redistribution decisions whereby the schools for which items were designated, either did not receive them or received only a portion of what was sent. Reportedly, through a re-distribution process, other educational facilities received items earmarked for specific schools. One alumnus stated “….of course we are sympathetic toward other schools which also have needs, but we were not informed of re-distribution of the equipment sent by our Alumni Association”. Such actions have been quite worrisome, causing what has been referred to as ‘Diaspora fatigue’. Respondents also reported that ethnic and political divisions which unfortunately came into play led to frustration, dampened confidence, distrust and tension. Indeed there is justification for the currently enforced policy by the Ministry of Education. Hopefully its implementation will not cause a schism between the diaspora (i.e. former students and other donors) and the school system. Standards for safety and accessibility are indeed important in the effort to sustain ordered distribution of resources.

Possible Solutions:

This policy change is viewed as affecting a continuum of movement from exploitation to protection. The message from the ministry signals the need for guardrails to protect the integrity and safety of students. The following are suggested approaches for cogently dealing with the identified areas of concern: (1) Recognize that visitors’ requests are generally made in good faith, but for expediency, streamlining the bureaucracy that undergirds such decisions is essential. (2) Safety measures would be effectively enforced by on-sight trained security personnel and vigilance of parents and neighbors. A coordinated modernized school security system and presentation of visitor’s identification would be helpful (3) The ministry should encourage suggestions on this topic from Alumni Associations at home and in the diaspora. (4) Timely response from the ministry to the receipt and distribution of resources received (5) If the decision is made to share earmarked donations with other than designated recipient schools, then justification, method of distribution, and destination of donations must be shared with donors in a timely manner (6) The Ministry of Education must acknowledge receipt of donations and provide timely and accurate information about progress of the recipient schools (7) Facilitate the expeditious response to requests made. If not in place, the Ministry should identify an office to ensure efficiency in the response to requests. The role of the Chief Education Officer is central in this regard. Notably, schools with a Board of Governors which approves school visits or planned projects appear to avoid the potential “red tape” associated with seeking permission to expedite requests (8) Measures must be taken not to politicize the re-distribution of donations in order to safeguard against favoritism and polarizing (9) Teachers, school administrators, students and parents must be appraised about the sources, distribution the method of received goods and services.

Reportedly, there has been a shortage of Instructors in some curriculum areas, compounded by gaps in teachers’ availability created by them simultaneously attending training institutions such as the University of Guyana to earn their degree. Some alumni, by their own initiative or through their respective Diaspora Organizations have conducted teacher training workshops in IT, Mathematics and other fields. It would be useful to identify “point people” in different ministries for dealing with the subject of diaspora connections as related to education. The relationship that emerges from the above-stated strategies requires increased dialogue and collaboration.

We hope that the teachers work action at the time of writing this article will be resolved soon, particularly with regards to the potential negative impact on students’ progress. Diaspora organizations are committed to helping students develop into citizens who demonstrate outstanding human values and exemplars of a lifestyle that is worthy of emulation. I encourage the establishment and release of a Guyanese Diaspora Engagement Strategy document to streamline and mobilize diaspora resources for education, business, other social institutions or volunteerism in an organized fashion. The research to justify the need for an Diaspora Engagement Plan in Guyana has already been done (See A. Telhilim, 2017). The government is urged to update the data and implement the plan, creating “lasting transnational partnerships”.


Matthews, L. and L. Lewis (2023) Navigating Change in Guyana – Opportunities and Challenges: How does the diaspora fit in?”. Presented at the 2nd Diaspora Conference. University of Guyana. May 8 – 12, 2023. University of Guyana Campus, Turkeyen.

News Source (2024) Education Ministry blocks Persons and Organizations from visiting schools without prior approval. January 31, 2024.

Tehilim, A. (2017) The Guyanese Diaspora: A Comprehensive Intervention ( Diaspora Engagement Strategy). International Organization of Migration. IOM development Fund.


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